It gets somewhat better in act two, but it was a tough slog through the first half of Rock of Ages currently on stage at Vancouver’s Metro Theatre. Not because this cast wasn’t giving it all, but from a sound system that made it all but impossible to “feel the noize” on opening night.
Let’s face it, while Rock of Ages’ cheesy story can be fun at times, like many of the jukebox musicals that have come before and after, it really is all about the music. So, when sound problems – dropped microphones, feedback, and a near non-existent sound balance – prevent an audience from hearing not only the music but much of the dialogue, you’re not left with much else.
For those who know the story of Rock of Ages, such as it is in Chris D’Arienzo’s slight book, there is at least the saving grace that you know what is happening. For the rest though, there is little doubt the sound difficulties that plagued opening night made it impossible to follow.
It is a real shame too, as there is undoubtedly a gem of a musical waiting to be heard from a cast who appear to be having the time of their life on stage. And in those rare moments when there was some clarity, it was apparent some of the actors really could deliver the necessary 80’s glam rock vibe.
There are a few bright lights though. Where past productions of Rock of Ages have felt as if there were two stories competing with each other, director Chris Adams levels the playing field here by ensuring everything is played with tongue firmly planted. Choreographer Nicol Spinola hits all the iconic 80’s dance moves.
Aesthetically, Brian Ball does a nice job transforming the Metro’s proscenium into the grungy Bourbon Bar, although his massive Hollywood sign backdrop didn’t quite deliver, feeling unfinished and with a perspective that was off the mark. And while Stephen Bulat didn’t fare so well in the sound department, his lighting design did provide the required rock-and-roll atmosphere.
Ultimately though you can’t review what you can’t hear, and unless this production can fix its sound issues you “can’t fight this feeling” that it may never live up to its potential.
Rock of Ages with book and lyrics by Chris D’Arienzo. Arrangements and orchestrations by Ethan Popp. Directed by Chris Adams. A Renegades Arts Co production. On stage at Metro Theatre (1370 SW Marine Dr, Vancouver) until July 6. Visit metrotheatre.com for tickets and information.